Gale Warning

(Catharine Higginson) #1

One year ago tomorrow, hurricane Klaus hit south west France. OK, it wasn't exactly on Katrina scale and it wasn't actually categorised as a hurricane, but for those of us who were affected, it was pretty bloody scary.

I was alone with our youngest child. James was up in Normandy doing some work on my father's property. The two girls were staying overnight with friends. During the night a huge old oak, fell and blocked our drive. The house was isolated and we were stranded. So come Saturday morning, it was just me, Max and his sodding Action Men. If the girls had been there, I could have walked for help. But it was far too dangerous to take a 7 year old outside or leave him and set out on my own. We were stuck.

The electricity went off first, followed by the water. Then the land line. Then the mobile. By late afternoon, light was fading, we were flushing toilets with buckets of rainwater and I was debating whether to have a cup of tea or save the last glass of water to clean our teeth. After a couple of hours playing Lego by candlelight, it was time to go to bed. At 8pm.

24 hours later and I'd had enough. Unwashed, thirsty and totally pissed off, James' arrival bearing a generator, packs of water and bottles of wine (thank God for motorway service stations that sell alcohol), was little short of a miracle. I didn't quite prostrate myself in the drive weeping - but nearly.

Our experience wasn't half as bad as some people's. The image is of our friends house, a couple of miles away. He lost his roof. And most of his house. Chez nous, no one was hurt and having the generator meant we had hot water. A wood burning stove kept us warm. Friends who still had water filled jerry cans for us and the house didn't suffer major damage - just a few missing tiles and leaks.

Last week, the insurers finally paid out on our claim for the stuff that was damaged during the storm. Luckily it was for things that weren't essential to our day to day existence. I dread to think how we would have coped if we'd lost vital stuff and had to wait for nearly a year to be paid.

So, how did the storm affect you? My duck farming neighbour opposite reckons that we are due another one . I hope not....

(Karina Driscoll) #2

I can not believe that is is a year today ! We were having dinner the night before with French friends in the village and our little girl decided to " sleep over ". Gilles warned us that it would hit us at about 4.00 am . We left about midnight, all so calm and I said " I think everyone is over reacting " to my husband.

We settled down for a good nights sleep and then at 4.13 am precisely IT started !!. We had closed all shutters, but the noise was so scary. we both got up, went downstaires and made a cup of tea… I, at this point was rather tearful , as we were living in our " new build " and would it still be standing, with us in it ? I thought of our daughter in Roquecor and wished she had come home with us. Then the lights went out !. No electric

The wind blew and blew !!! , at about 9.00 am , we took the decision to open the front door and look out, we were shocked, tree’s down and our sun loungers were no longer by the pool, but 3 fields away. No phone or mobile reception, so Peter said it was safe to get in the car, drive into the village and check things out.

Lea ( our daughter ) was fine , and thought the whole thing was " Great Fun ", we all had a chat in our cafe du centre . Our heating is by electic heat exchangers, and no " real fires ", so off we went to go and buy parafin , tree’s down, ended up walking 2 km, but got some !! So pleased we had 1 heater !. Our village was cut off my fallen tree’s for 3 days…

We were lucky, as I have a Gas range cooker ( gas bottles ), so we could cook !, to cut a long story short, we had no electric or water for 6 days. I took in 3 people to live with us, I cooked and delivered to elderly people ( containers wrapped in towels, to keep it hot ) and seemed to have a house full every day. We used our salt swimming pool water ,boiled for washing up and to flush the toilets. I had to use the whole contents of my 2 freezers, ( even with keeping the doors closed, it was defrosting ) but did we and the village eat well !!

We were lucky, no damage to our house, now feel very happy and safe in our " new build ", but many friends lost roofs, chimneys etc…

A year today and what is so strange, is that we had dinner with Gilles and Sandrine last night, the same couple we were with a year ago !!

Glad you were finally paid out on your claim Catharine, France is awful for " Paying out "…

Thank’s for this post, it bought back many memories…